I don’t call myself “Christian.” I don’t think I ever fully identified with that label, even when I was deeply studying Bible and Jesus’ teachings. While I prefer the simplicity of “spiritual,” I still see room for growth in what that really means. Most importantly, I see interfaith spirituality as the ultimate key individual traditions keep searching for alone, when they truly need to find solidarity among diverse others.
“Othering” isn’t new. Life as humanity knows it exists mostly in duality. It’s easier to distinguish what a concept or phenomenon is when we have two clear choices. The grey area makes us confused, overwhelmed, and, at times, angry.
But we need the grey. We need interfaith spirituality. This doesn’t mean we must water down all distinct religions to create a spiritual monoculture. Instead, we must seek guidance from the unique insights that every genuine religion can offer us. Our greatest searches of meaning, mystic experience, and enlightenment all require us to think beyond the boundaries of our own safety net, our “home base” of doctrine, ritual, and liturgy.
Interfaith spirituality is a requirement for us to sustain life as we know it. Bringing forth a diverse patchwork asks us to become students to other teachers, opening our heads, hearts, and hands to the great Divine. God. Ultimate Source.
our call to interconnectedness
As I mentioned, we don’t have the option anymore to close our eyes and muffle the sounds around us. With the most information, tools, and resources now at our disposal across the globe, our divine responsibility is to find the common threads that tie us all together as One.
I grew up Christian and am still most familiar with that tradition. My lived experience and that of my ancestors all derives itself from this religious source. However, just because I was baptized and confirmed within one Christian denomination doesn’t dictate the lengths my spiritual journey should go.
If I had dug my feet stubbornly into the Lutheran soil, I would have never discovered my fascination for world religions and spirituality in all its facets. I often find myself as an observer, a student of whatever tradition and person I come across. We in isolation cannot uplift the many faces and qualities of God; we need many voices.
One story that comes to mind originates in Indian culture, both Hinduism and Buddhism. Several blind people come across an elephant. One remarks on the personable facial features. Another feels a long, billowing trunk. Another notices the massive feet and the weight they carry, while yet another focuses upon the rough, thick skin meeting their hand.
The “moral”: we cannot grasp the enormous picture of God, our higher power and consciousness, without bringing our ideas together into a greater narrative.
one “right” answer equals violence
Even outside of war settings, religion can feel like a battle of opposing forces. We create a ruckus over what we believe and why everyone else must believe it, too. Forget about tradition. Forget about what you find sacred. Whoever converts the most new believers, wins.
Consider the Crusades and continual Christian missionaries preaching the Bible’s superiority over nature-based, indigenous spirituality. How about a long history of antisemitism, spearheaded by the Holocaust mass genocide? Let’s not forget the most recent stigma surrounding Islam, most often depicted solely as terrorism despite objective statistics about the vast Muslim population and actual acts of terrorism.
Fundamentalism as we know it comes from feeling threatened. Hiding behind strict, literal interpretations of inherently metaphorical texts serves as a shield against the unknown. Again, the grey area. It’s much easier to stick to clear-cut “answers” than dip your toes into greater questions that will likely persist for a hot minute or a million.
We cling to our ego, our limited sense of security. We blame culture, the media, society as a whole. Choose an enemy to combat, and start fighting. It’s a vicious cycle that will likely persist as long as we build up the borders surrounding our individual comfort zones.
it’s time for interfaith spirituality
Where does that leave us then? Obviously, much of the status quo isn’t working and hasn’t been working throughout history. If a religion leads to people consciously defying its core tenets, then something’s wrong. We can no longer focus on the repercussions, but the source itself.
So, we return to the Source. The answer to our problems ultimately comes down to knowledge, in active retaliation against ignorance. Basic education of world religions should be mandatory. Throw in direct experiences with those of different backgrounds and faiths, perhaps visiting places of worships and respectfully participating, and even better.
We must also check ourselves. Even if we’re firm on our free will and serving God’s will, we’re undeniably all interconnected. Your choices, actions, decisions, and thoughts all matter. Some other form of life, in one way or another, will feel the ripple effect. We have the willpower to both sink deeply into “evil,” as well as rise to meet our innate morality.
All of life is sacred. Comparing Eastern and Western understandings of God, most Abrahamic religious folx would identify God outside ourselves, in nature and the cosmos. Eastern religious folx, on the other hand, point to themselves, their hearts, as God’s dwelling place. Neither are wrong; just a different emphasis on outward actions versus inward contemplation.
And we need both. If one diet or lifestyle doesn’t fit everyone’s needs and preferences, then why should faith? I’m not asking that you denounce your current faith and go live in a cave or something. Instead, seat yourself in your spirituality where you can glimpse every beautiful, genuine belief at once. Look at the kaleidoscope we’re left with.
That, dear ones, is interfaith spirituality. Embracing every breath of life, every sacred faith, every path that meets God.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie
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